Fatal Flaw

"It's almost been a day," I said in front of the group. "We have to go find her. What if she's hurt?" It had been a rather quiet day because Claire was missing. It was currently around the time we had all seen her last yesterday. It was still light out, but nearly dark. We all sat around the remaining smoldering ashes from our last fire.

"It's going to be dark soon. It wouldn't be good for any of us to go out in the forest now." Chase responded gruffly. Mason sat next to him looking worried. She had been much better since last night when she fell into the river, but she still looked exhausted, like someone getting over a bad illness. According to Trent she probably would have been okay with finding our way back as long as we didn't push it. That's what we would have been doing now if it weren't for Claire being gone.

"We're just wasting time though! She could die if she's hurt or run out of food and starve." I argued. Although I was worried about Claire, part of me just wanted to find her as soon as possible so we could get out of this place.

"Claire is a smart girl. If she has to spend a night in the forest, I'm sure she would be fine until we could get to her." Chase debated. "There's no use in risking another one of us." He said. Chase and I rarely argued, but I was willing to risk confrontation. Claire might not be my best friend, and as much as I hate to say it, she is almost like family to me now. We all are. I wasn't going to leave her; she was probably expecting our help.

"She said she was going to map out our trail to get back home," Matthew chimed in. "Maybe the trail she is making is just more elaborate this time. It might take her more time to get back. Waiting for night would just give her more time. We did kind of stumble upon this place, we didn't really have a trail to begin with." He said shrugging. "Not to mention she went alone. None of us really offered to help." I looked at him and scowled. Lianna was leaned into him, and had her head resting on his chest and her legs stretched out to the side of her. He had one arm wrapped gently around her shoulder. Lianna began to slowly nod her head in agreement.

I rolled my eyes and looked away. I used to not be sure what was going on with those two, now I'm really not sure. I wasn't sure if they were a couple or not, but no one dared to question them all day. Especially Mason, who instead gave them the evil eye any time they were close together, which was exactly what she was doing now. Her gaze though, turned to me.

"I agree with Eve." She said crossing her arms. That left two in favor for looking for Claire and three in favor for waiting.

"Trent?" I asked looking at him. He looked at me with wide eyes. You could tell he didn't like the idea of this decision being put into his hands. "We should go look for Claire, right?" I said looking at him.

"Uh," he said. "I don't know." As usual, he had nothing to contribute. He looked out at all the irritated faces. Suddenly, Mason shot up from her spot on the dirt.

"Well, I'm going, with or with out you guys. Come on, Eve." She said making her way to the forest. In that moment Matthew and Chase both stood up at the same time.

"Mason wait!" Matthew said. Chase grabbed her elbow to keep her from going. She turned around and looked at me, and I got up and walked to her side.

"Like she said, with or without you guys." I said. Chase let go of Mason arm and ran a hand through his hair and sighed heavily.

"I guess I'm coming too then." Chase said. "I'm not letting you go out there alone." Mason gave him a small smile. I raised one eyebrow, not missing the fact that he was talking directly to Mason and not both of us.

"I'll come too." Matthew said walking towards us.

"Wait a second!" Lianna said launching from her spot. She rushed to Matthew's side. "You guys said it yourself, we should wait until morning!" She said looking at Matthew with a sincere worried look on her face. Matthew looked at her and smiled.

"You can come if you want." He said. Lianna shook her head.

"No, it's going to be dark soon. Bad things always happen when we go in there at night." She said. I immediately thought of the night Chase and Mason got lost and the other night when Mason fell into the river.

"Man-up, Barbie." Mason sneered. This was usually the point where Lianna would snap back but she looked like she was trying hard to contain herself. Lianna just looked away, and then back at Matthe w

"Come on sit back down." She said grabbing Matthew's arm. "You guys too. We need to wait." She said looking at us, and then directly at me. She actually seemed scared for us to go into the forest this close to nighttime. I couldn't blame her for that one. She looked back at Matthew. "Please." She begged.

Matthew looked directly into her eyes and then sighed. "Okay." He said quietly and then kissed the top of her head. Lianna let out a sigh of relief and closed her eyes.

"Thank you." She said.

"Matthew!" Mason scolded.

"What?" He yelled. "I didn't even want to go in the first place! Are you going to sit down or not?"

"Matthew it's not worth it." Lianna said tugging on his arm to bring him back. "Stop fighting." Matthew took one last look at Mason before turning around. Lianna was leading him back to their spot. This was surprising, as Lianna was rarely passive. She was usually very aggressive.

"Oh please, Lianna, you can drop the act! Don't think I don't know exactly what you're doing." Mason said. Lianna looked at her with wide eyes as if Mason had just spilled one of her biggest secrets. "You don't even like Matthew, you're using him because you think it'll make me jealous. We all know Chase is the real guy you want." Mason yelled at her. "Girls like you, they never change."

Chase cleared his through looking very uncomfortable. Lianna was still frozen in her place. Matthew looked at Lianna. All the blood drained from her face and she looked devastated.

"Is that true?" He asked. "Everything that happened, it was an act?" Matthew asked, looking like he could cry at any moment. Lianna started shaking her head quickly.

"No! It's not!" She said. "I-I mean, not exactly."

"The kiss? All of it was fake?" Matthew asked, his voice sounding almost monotone now. They had kissed? Where had I been?

Lianna shook her head. "No. The kiss was real and everything after that was real. It was all real!" She said, pleading. Matthew stared at her for a moment. Thick tears were streaming down her face and her hair was frazzled. Her eyes were bloodshot from stress and she was breathing heavily. Lianna doesn't usually get this worked up over things. Upset, yes, but not this gut-wrenching crying. His gaze softened and he walked over to her slowly. Matthew looked deep into her eyes and studied her closely for a few seconds then bent down and whispered loud enough for me to hear. "I believe you."

Suddenly, Mason let out a frustrated cry. "I'm so sick of you getting everything you want!" Lianna turned around, only to see that Mason was charging right at her. Lianna took a few steps back, but Mason was faster. Mason placed her palms on Lianna's shoulders and with a great amount of force, pushed her, sending her falling back a few feet.

Lianna landed directly on her back and into the smoldering ashes. She jerked her arms to her side and sat up. She was breathing heavily and held her left wrist and stared at her hand. It was a red color, darker than her flesh. When she fell her hand had gone directly into the ashes from our fire. My eyes widened and I covered my mouth. I looked around to every one. Mason had a somewhat guilty look on her face, probably because she didn't mean to push her into the ashes. Chase and Trent just stood their shocked, like me, not knowing what to do.

Matthew was already at Lianna's side, examining her hand along with her. Lianna looked up at Mason and her nostrils were flared and her breathing got heavier. Lianna balled up her scalded hand and lunged from her spot. Lianna threw a punch with her burnt fist sending Mason back. You could see all of that anger she was holding back suddenly come out. At this moment my heart had skipped a beat. This is the thing I had feared that would happen between them. It was all happening so fast.

Mason quickly recovered and hurled her body at Lianna tackling her to the ground. Mason pinned her shoulders with her knees and grabbed a fist full of blonde hair. They were both screaming obscenities at each other. Lianna, being considerably taller than petite Mason was easily able to throw her off and grab her by the shoulders. Lianna dug her nails into Mason's skin. She shook Mason but before any more damage could be done, Chase had wrapped his arms around Lianna and pulled her off. Lianna struggled to get away. Matthew ran to Mason and grabbed her from under the arms and lifted her. Once Lianna was done struggling she just looked at Mason.

They were both pretty beat up. Dripping from Mason's lip was blood, and you could already see a bruise from where Lianna had punched her. Lianna's face was scratched up, not to mention the pain you probably couldn't see in her scalp from having her hair pulled. They both had various scrapes and dirt caked their arms and already dirty clothes.

Mason tugged her body away from Matthew. She turned to face him. Lianna was let go by Chase. She just stood there watching Mason and Matthew.

"It's me or her." Mason said to Matthew. "If you don't come to look for Claire with me, then you can forget it, and just stay away from me. So much for best friends over relationships." Her voice was full of hurt and anger. Mason swiftly turned around and headed into the forest, to begin her journey to look for Claire. Without much hesitation, Chase followed her. Only moment went by and Trent followed too.

"Come on, Lianna." Matthew said quietly almost begging. He grabbed her better hand and began to pull her into the forest, not wanting to have to choose between her and Mason.

"No, Matthew." Lianna said. She pulled her hand away and stopped. Matthew looked at her with pleading eyes but she shook her head. Matthew truly looked torn, staring into the forest and back into Lianna's eyes.

"I guess I'll stay then." He said. Lianna walked close to him. She put one hand behind his neck and smiled. She brought his face down her and kissed him lightly. She pulled her hand back, but was still close.

"Go," She said, "I don't want you to loose a friend because of me. I know that would hurt you. Go, I'll be right here when you get back." She said giving him a reassuring smile. Matthew sighed and nodded. He placed one hand on her head and stroked her hair. His other hand went into his pocket. He grabbed Lianna's good hand and opened it, then pressed his lighter into her palm. The lighter, which we had been using to start our fires was almost out of gasoline, and probably only had enough to light one more fire. Matthew looked at her directly in the eyes.

"If anything goes wrong, I want you to start a fire, that way I'll see the smoke and be able to come help you." Matthew said. Lianna nodded her head and threw her arms around his neck. She whispered something in his ear that I wasn't able to pick up. Before I wasn't really sure Lianna had really liked Matthew as much as she had admitted. I know my best friend though and Lianna had definitely liked Matthew, that much I was now sure about. They held each other for another moment until Matthew pulled away. He kissed her on the top of the head one more time before going into the forest. Lianna looked down and rocked back on her feet a little.

I went up to her and gave her a big hug. She wrapped her arms tight around me. "Eve, I'm so sorry. Good luck looking for Claire." I pulled away and looked at her.

"Why don't you just come with us?" I asked. We wouldn't be gone long but leaving her alone was a scary idea. She smiled at me, a small smile.

"You know I couldn't let Mason tell me what to do that easily." She said. I smiled back and nodded. I should have known, Lianna was very proud. "Eve, come back safe." She said seriously to me. I nodded.

"It's not me I'm worried about." I said. She smiled again.

"I think I'm safe." She said holding up the lighter.

"Right." I said nodding. "I'll see you in a bit." I said

"Yeah, see you in a bit." I grabbed her shoulder and rubbed it a little before walking into the forest to the others. When I looked back Lianna was standing there watching me. She radiated with an orange and gold backdrop from the sunset behind her. The wind blew through her hair, and the sun complimented her perfectly. She smiled beautifully as she waved goodbye.

(LB)

We had only been out here for a few minutes when it had just begun getting dark. We all called out for Claire. We hadn't even found a trail from her. No footprints, or even trail markers like she said she would use. Matthew seemed the most determined right now. He was eager to get back to Lianna. More than occasionally he would look behind him to check for smoke, in case Lianna had started a fire making a distress call. I was guilty of that too though. I didn't like the fact that she stayed there alone, even though she was right, we were probably in more danger than she was.

"Guys! Wait!" I heard from behind me. It was Trent. He was coughing, and gagging. We all stopped and turned to attend to him.

"What's wrong?" I asked. Trent coughed and sputtered a little more. We waited for him to answer. Suddenly he stopped coughing.

"I think I swallowed a bug." He said in a raspy voice. We all let out frustrated sighs, not Matthew though. Matthew race up to him pointed his finger at him.

"Enough of your games!" He said. "You keep holding us up! The faster you shut up the faster we can get back to the cabin!" He said. I couldn't tell if Matthew had snapped because already didn't like Trent very much, or if he was just super eager to get back to Lianna. Probably both. Before Matthew backed away he looked at the sky to check for smoke again. He started to look back but then did a double take, looking back toward the cabin again.

"Is that smoke?" He asked.

"You're just seeing things, Matthew." Mason said rolling her eyes. "Don't worry your little girlfriend is fine." Mason and the others didn't known what the smoke was supposed to mean, so they weren't looking like Matthew and I were. I looked at the sky were Matthew was and there was a looming black cloud of smoke rising above the trees right in the spot where the cabin would have been.

Matthew and I didn't hesitate one bit. We both began sprinting toward the cabin, missing all of the obstacles that would have slowed us down. The others followed behind, confused as to what was going on.

In no time we where at the edge of forest in front of the cabin. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I couldn't contain myself. "Lianna!" I wailed, searching around for my best friend.

The cabin was completely ablaze. Wood was splitting the old roof in half and the windows were breaking from the heat. If Lianna were inside… she would be extremely hurt, unless she found some kind of safe spot.

"Do you see her?" Matthew cried over the dangerous roar of the fire. I shook my head and raced up to the front door.

"Eve, don't go in there, what are you thinking?" Trent gasped, finally catching up to us. I didn't listen to him. I burst the front door open and I was met with a surge of hot air. I immediately started coughing, inhaling smoke. My eyes scoured the room but the smoke made it hard to see. I used my shirt as a filter through my mouth so I could breath, but it didn't help as much as I expected it to. I quickly dashed up the stairs, when I fell through the rotting third step up. I cried out in pain and pulled myself up through. I went upstairs and looked around the attic, which wasn't burning as bad as the bottom, but was covered in smoke. I couldn't stay up there for more than a few seconds so I ran back down the stairs. The front door slammed open, now on fire, and a shadowy figure stepped in frantically.

"Eve, where are you?" Trent coughed. I ran back over to him, and a support beam crashed down on the stairs, completely blocking the way. I prayed that Lianna wasn't up there.

"You idiot, get outside now!" Trent yelled. He grabbed my arm, helping me out as we sputtered and coughed until we were twenty feet from the house or so.

Trent and I collapsed on the ground in a coughing fit on the ground while everyone else searched for Lianna. I rested my head on the cool grass, but when I opened my eyes I was horrified at what I saw. At first I didn't believe it; I almost wanted to laugh because just the idea was completely ridiculous, why would I be thinking of something like that?

Lianna's body was caught in a giant wave of fire, connected from the tree to the cabin. I froze for just a moment and lifted myself up off my feet, darting over. I heard a horrible, blood-curdling scream that made the hair on my arms stand straight up, and then realized it was coming from my own mouth. I scooted my body, army crawling towards her, almost forgetting that I had legs. I stood up finally and ran towards her.

Lianna was engulfed in flames, but through them I could see her mouth and face contorted awfully and twisted in fear. Her glassy eyes reflected the deadly fire surrounding her and bile rose in my throat. I collapsed for the second time that night, onto my knees in utter disbelief. My friends, practically my family came rushing over, seeing the horrific scene in front of them.

Out of desperateness, Matthew grabbed his beloved out of the inferno and rolled her charred body on the dewy grass. Her clothes were scorched along with her skin, which was covered in angry blisters and blackened patches. Lianna's whole face was singed, leaving her hardly recognizable. The pungent smell of burned hair wafted through the air, but I noticed parts of it were still shiny and blonde. There were smears of blood trailing down her neck. It reminded me of the one I had see on Jane. It was a clean cut; one that was meant to kill. Lianna had been murdered and left to burn.

Matthew leaned over Lianna's chest and sobbed. I suddenly tasted salt on my lips and realized I was crying, which was the breaking point for me. I cried, I cried because I knew that my best friend was gone but yet, I still had this feeling that she was going to be okay. Lianna couldn't have been dead. I need my best friend. And Matthew needs her. Heck, even Mason needs someone to fight with. She was going to come back to me… eventually…She had to.

LB

Thanks for the read. We hope appreciated this chapter! There's not a whole lot for us to say, but we've been anticipating your comments on this chapter since it was written. Please be respectful though, because certain characters will hold a special place in our hearts. Remember, e-mail is on our profile, and comments are always appreciated, and loved! We wont be posting for a few weeks because we think this is the half way point in the story and we want to get caught up with the other chapters to come. We hope you can be patient with us, we'll try to get as much done as we can so we can post soon! Here's a preview for the next chapter: Silhouette

"I squeezed my eyes shut and tears trickled out. I dried my face with my hands and opened them again, ready to talk. "What happened between you guys?" I said not knowing how to say it. "You looked so happy together." I said. I waited for an answer, but one didn't come. I was about to scold Matthew for ignoring me again when he finally spoke."